3 Common Mindfulness Pitfalls When Life Get's Stressful and How to Avoid Them

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Your job is at a dead end, your relationship with your significant other is on the rocks, you’re constantly exhausted, and on top of all that, you’re at the end of your favorite Netflix binge.

I hear you — and a ton of other people like you — sincerely and quizzically asking, “Why would I want to become more mindful of the present moment?”

Mindfulness is a tough sell for this very reason. When we need it most, we are most likely to say “No thanks.” After all, why would anyone in their right mind want to be reminded of how unhappy they are? Who could possibly be enthusiastic about contemplating how much their life stinks?

I totally get it. I used to think this way too.

In the past, when bad or stressful times hit, I would instantly forget key pieces of being mindful. As it turns out, many people I’ve talked to about mindfulness over the years tend to get derailed by forgetting some of these same aspects.

Let’s take a look at three common places people get off track and what you can do to avoid them or get back on track.

1. Judging: 

When things get hard, or when we’re particularly stressed out, it’s very easy to slide into old habits and ways of thinking. One of the most tried-and-true ways of derailing mindful awareness is by judging our thoughts, feelings and experiences as good or bad.

It isn’t surprising that we do this. There’s a human survival mechanism inherent in this mental habit of judging things as good or bad. It keeps us safe and alerts us to our boundaries. The problem is that it also robs us of our objectivity and our ability to respond in the best way possible. To a large degree, our mental judging chooses our responses for us.

This is okay in an actual survival situation, but the fact that it happens in our day-to-day lives (i.e. when we hate our job or hate our thighs) that it becomes a problem. This kind of thinking automatically kicks us into that “good equals do more of/want more of” and “bad equals avoid or feel bad about” mode. That is exhausting.

When we aren’t happy with how things are going in our lives, it is common to get automatically pulled back to this habit. If you’re resisting the idea of mindfulness right about now, check in with your thoughts and see if you’ve slipped back into judging. Awareness, and a gentle nudge, is the antidote to this one.

2. Falling into the Gap: 

The second place people get tripped up when life stinks is by getting triggered by the gap. By this I mean focusing on what seems to be a deep chasm between what we feel now about our life and what we wish we were feeling about our life. Or the distance between life as it is currently and our prized destination.

The gap is a powerful force when our reserves are low. That gap consists of all the conditions we’ve consciously or subconsciously set up for ourselves in order to be happy. For example, “If I find my soul mate, I will be happy,” or “I won’t be happy until I’m skinny.” When we get pulled into the gap, we often feel dissatisfied. That sense of lack looms large, making us feel inferior and weak.

Mindfulness in these situations is when we recognize that we’re being pulled toward the gap. A good guideline for noticing this dynamic is that often, when you’re unhappy or feeling like you’re missing something, you’re being pulled. You’re wrestling against a condition you’ve set up for yourself, consciously or subconsciously.

When you realize this, bring the condition out into the light by identifying it. Once you do, turn it into a preference instead of a need. For example, turn it into, “I prefer to lose weight” or “I prefer to be in relationship with my soul mate.” Notice how breaking the chains of this need helps you become more present to your current situation in the here and now.

3. Acceptance: 

This last one is so much easier to do in good times than in bad. We often imagine we’ll be able to accept disappointment in times of challenge or crisis only to find out that, well, it’s much more challenging than we thought it would be.

A common scenario in which people get derailed when faced with hard times is thinking that acceptance seems too risky. You worry about surprising yourself if you dare to think, “What if accepting means I’m admitting that I’m okay with what’s happening?” It might look like you lack initiative or have no motivation to change. Often this pushback surfaces when we haven’t had opportunities to practice acceptance in real life. As an intellectual exercise, we thought it made sense. In real time? Not as much.

If you find yourself resisting acceptance, try to approach it as an experiment. Try accepting whatever you’re unhappy with as simply what is. Then see what happens. For example, if you’re in a dead end job and you accept that, see if you decide to look for another job, see if you decide that this job is good enough for now, or another option. There’s no right answer. What you will most likely find is that acceptance gives you the distance you need to best create and evaluate your options in the here and now, without the drawbacks you were fearing.

When life is challenging we often surprise ourselves with how we react. As a longtime practitioner of mindfulness, I’m humbled by the power of old habits. They never fail to provide new opportunities for me to practice and grow. Throw in some self-compassion, and I have all the ingredients for a rich and evolving practice.

And as we all know, life is always ready to give us plenty of material to work with.

5 Stealthy Chair Yoga Stretches That Won’t Get You Laughed Out of the Office


Time flies when you’re in the flow. And before you know it, you’ve been sitting at your comfy co-working spot for hours! Even though your mind feels like it can time travel without a problem, your body definitely starts to feel it. Hours spent in the same slouched or other posture-compromising position starts to take it’s toll on us. It’s as if our bodies cozy up a little too much with the whole ‘path of least resistance’ thing and forget that a range of motion is necessary to keep us at optimal health and comfort. Here are a few seated stretches you can do to stay limber enough to see your projects through to the end! And not look weird in the process.

1.The “Who else is here?” Stretch- This can be your go-to to release tension in your spine and lower back without encouraging funny looks from coworkers. What? You’re just looking around at who else has come in since you opened up the place hours ago.

  • Sit on the edge of your chair with feet on the floor.
  • Place your right hand on your left knee and grab the chair back with your left hand.
  • Gently twist toward the chair and hold for a few breaths.
  • Return to center and switch sides.

2. “I just rocked that section!” Stretch- Take a mid-afternoon refresher to stretch your shoulders, triceps, chest and hands.

  • Sit with your legs hip width apart and feet flat on the floor.
  • Clasp hands in front of you, interlocking your fingers. Stay here for a few breaths
  • Turn your palms outward and raise straight over your head.
  • Bend slowly to the left and hold for two breaths before repeating on the right side.
  • Continue alternating for one minute.

3. “That was such a great idea I just thought of!” Stretch- This one will help you create that deep stretch your neck is craving. For best results, visualize your neck lengthening and the muscles along your vertebrae relaxing.

  • Sit with your legs hip width apart and feet flat on the floor.
  • Reach over your head and place your right hand on the left side of your head to gently pull your neck away from your shoulders.
  • At the same time, hold firmly onto the chair with your left hand to draw your left shoulder away from your neck.
  • Hold the pose for at least five more breaths, then release your left hand from the chair and gently massage your neck and shoulders with your left hand.
  • Slowly lift the head and switch sides to repeat the sequence.

4. “Okay, so this is how I do it” Stretch- The way we sit for extended periods of time really takes a toll on our bodies. Crossing our legs while seated, especially when done on one side more than the other, can create imbalances in our hips and lower spine. Bring balance back and keep those hip flexors flexible with this stretch.

  • Sit with your legs hip width apart and feet flat on the floor.
  • Cross your right leg over the left at a 90-degree angle and let it drop toward the ground as much as it can.
  • Keep your the foot flexed as to not place pressure on the knee.
  • Distribute equal weight between the sitting bones while staying in an upright seated position.
  • You should feel a gentle to moderate stretch on the outermost part of the right thigh.
  • Hold 5 to 10 breaths before switching sides.

5. “What project should I crush next? Stretch- With this one, breathe deeply while stretching out your shoulders, back, chest, and hands.

  • Sit with your legs hip width apart and feet flat on the floor.
  • Interlace your fingers in front of you.
  • Inhale and stretch your arms straight over your head.
  • lower your hands to behind your head on an exhale.
  • With your clasped hands behind your head, take three breaths as you gently stretch your elbows back until you feel the stretch.
  • Inhale and raise above your head, keeping fingers interlaced.
  • Unlace your hands and lower your hands to your sides on an exhale.

Try incorporating some of these each day so when a powder day comes, you’re ready! What are some of the things you do to help during those long days at your computer?